PORTLAND, Ore. — If you don’t need a coronavirus test in Oregon, experts say don't get one.
“You don't work in a high-risk setting but you're just in general concerned and think you want to just stop in and get a spot check? Please consider not testing right now," said Kim Toevs, the communicable disease director for Multnomah County. "We need to preserve our capacity for some of the folks in those higher capacity groups.”
Summer is a time to gather with loved ones, especially in the Northwest, to celebrate the incredible place in which we live. But gatherings have already led to virus outbreaks, according to Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority.
“We've seen outbreaks spurred by graduations, birthday parties, weddings, bachelor parties, fraternity parties, exercise classes, holiday celebrations around Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter," said Allen. "And we're now watching to see what may come from the Fourth of July.",” said Allen.
Right now, more than a few people may be thinking they should get tested before gathering with others for a vacation and maybe those others should too. That way everyone knows they are virus free, right? Wrong says Dr. Erik Vanderlip from ZOOM+Care.
“We may not be able to detect the virus until really a day or two into developing symptoms,” he said
Vanderlip points out that it could take 14 days to develop symptoms, but you are still infected and maybe contagious a day or two before the symptoms appear.
“We could get the viral test on Tuesday and you could develop symptoms on Thursday. And a negative test on Tuesday doesn't mean that virus has not been there somehow harboring inside your nose and upper airways or lower airways and will eventually become an infection," Vanderlip said. "So it’s important to remember that the viral test, one, will only tell you if you have, if we can detect that virus in your nose at that moment in time."
So, the timing is tricky. On top of that, there is the local and national testing surge that has already put a strain on supplies and extended wait times for results.
In Oregon over the week of July 6-12, 32,736 people got a COVID-19 test. Nationally, 4.6 million people got tests during that same week. That's a huge volume even for the national labs.
Kim Toevs, from Multnomah County, said some samples now take as long as 10 days for results.
“So, you can imagine if we don't get that test result for seven, eight, nine, 10 days, we may be getting the test result when they're almost done with the quarantine period. And the infection has already spread two to three more times since then,” Toevs said.